Radon is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas released by the naturally-occurring decomposition of uranium in soil, rock, and water. Radon causes lung cancer. In the atmosphere, radon is not a threat to humans because it is so diluted. However, when concentrated radon levels get trapped in our home, school, or office, the risk for developing lung cancer is significantly increased.
Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer in people who never smoked. And for current or former smokers, exposure to radon is like pouring gasoline on a fire. Research shows that radon exposure can more than triple the risk of developing lung cancer for both smokers and nonsmokers. In fact, more Americans will die from radon-induced lung cancer than from AIDS, drunk driving, drowning, or home fires. We protect ourselves from these other dangers by avoiding risky behaviors and installing appropriate safety devices and monitors.
It is difficult to know for sure how many people develop lung cancer caused by radon exposure. One reason is that the damage caused by radon may take many years before manifesting. Radon is the #1 cause of lung cancer in people who never smoked. According to the EPA, more than 21,000 Americans die from radon-induced lung cancer each year.
When we breathe air with radon gas, radioactive particles embed themselves into our lung tissue. Throughout several years, radon causes lung cancer; the number one cause of cancer deaths. More Americans die from lung cancer than from all the other major cancers combined.
Radon gas enters our homes through cracks in floors, walls, or foundations. It seeps in through gaps around pipes and other small openings. The air pressure inside a home is usually lower than pressure around the home’s foundation, and this causes a vacuum effect that sucks radon out of the soil and bedrock and into the house. Radon also enters the home through the water. When radon-infused water is used for showering, radon gas is released into the air in the home.
Although dangerous levels of radon have been found in all areas of the country, certain geographical regions are classified as having higher concentrations of radon than others. The EPA evaluated the indoor radon potential in every county across the nation. Nearly 1 out of 15 homes in the U.S. are estimated to have elevated radon levels, according to the EPA. To classify the potential for elevated indoor radon risk, the EPA assigned three color codes—red, orange, and yellow. Red has the potential highest concentration; orange moderate; and yellow low.
Radon levels are measured in picocuries per liter (pCi/L). There is no known safe level of exposure to radon. However, the EPA recommends that homeowners consider fixing their home for radon levels between 2 pCi/L and 4 pCi/L. The EPA recommends homes be mitigated if the radon level is 4 pCi/L or more.
Radon mitigation is accomplished, basically, by drawing the radon gas through a vented pipe, bypassing your home and releasing it in the atmosphere where it is diluted and harmless.
If your short-term radon test kit indicated that your home has an elevated level of radon, you might want to re-test to confirm the results before mitigating. If your home needs to mitigate, don’t panic. The cost is quite reasonable, especially compared to other homeowner repairs. The average price of mitigating a home is $1,200. It can usually be finished in a day.
The EPA recommends hiring a qualified radon mitigation contractor to fix your home. Not using a qualified mitigation contractor could increase the radon level in your home.
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